Pittsburgh controller wants more information about Uber's self-driving cars

Pittsburgh controller wants more information about Uber's self-driving cars

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh controller Michael Lamb responded Tuesday to comments made by Mayor Bill Peduto regarding global ride sharing company Uber and their relationship with the city of Pittsburgh.

In an email to Peduto, Lamb urged the mayor to make clear what terms, if any, have been negotiated with Uber concerning data collection while the company’s autonomous vehicles are being tested and used on Pittsburgh streets.

“I support your efforts to bring new jobs and industry to Pittsburgh and you are correct that the relationship between the city and Uber must be a ‘two way street,’” Lamb wrote. “Unfortunately, to this point, the relationship with Uber appears to be a one-way limited access highway.”

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Uber launched its ride sharing service in Pittsburgh in 2014, and in 2015 opened its Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood. In 2016, Uber began testing and operating a fleet of self-driving vehicles throughout the city.

Lamb said that Uber’s “impressive growth and revenue have enabled the company to move into the world of artificial intelligence and big data. Entering these highly competitive and lucrative technology sectors could offer enormous potential to Uber and Pittsburgh but, again, only if we are operating on that two-way street. They currently operate as if they have been given carte blanche access to our city.”

Channel 11 News asked Peduto about Lamb’s concerns. He defended Uber, saying the company has created 700 jobs in the city and more are on the way.

Peduto did acknowledge that the issues raised by the controller are important and said he’s been attempting to work them out with Uber.

“What we are looking for is to utilize that data and that information in ways to make our streets safer, and that information should be something that is shared. And hopefully within not too long of a time, we will have that agreement done as well,” he said.

Lamb said he was pleased with Peduto’s response and said he looks forward to hearing more.

The entire text of Lamb’s email to Peduto can be viewed below:

Dear Mayor Peduto:
 
I was interested to read your recent comments critical of the ride share service, Uber and its CEO, and I agree with you that their actions this past week were reprehensible. I support your efforts to bring new jobs and industry to Pittsburgh and you are correct that the relationship between the city and Uber must be a 'two-way street.' Unfortunately, to this point, the relationship with Uber appears to be a one way limited access highway.
 
Uber, can be a big asset to Pittsburgh but that must start with understanding what Uber is and what it is becoming. 
 
While Uber may have started as a trendy and attractive means of connecting those who needed a ride to those who could ride them, it has quickly developed into much more.  Its impressive growth and revenue have enabled the company to move into the world of artificial intelligence and big data. Entering these highly competitive and lucrative technology sectors could offer enormous potential to Uber and Pittsburgh but, again, only if we are operating on that two way street. They currently operate as if they have been given carte blanche access to our city. 
 
At Uber’s request, the city of Pittsburgh has opened its streets to a fleet of data collecting robotic vehicles. This is much more than ride sharing. These vehicles are capable of collecting endless amounts of data about our city. Who owns that data? In your negotiations with Uber, was this ever discussed? Can Uber turn around and sell that data without our consent? And do we get a share of any royalties? Do we even have free access to the data that our city streets generate?
 
These are important points that need to be discussed and I hope that they have been. But they also should be publicly aired so that our citizens fully understand the relationship that has been established and the terms that have been negotiated.
 
Regrettably, we already seem to be on that one-way street. Don’t let Uber ignore our citizens in the crosswalk. 
 
Michael E. Lamb, City Controller